According to tradition, it was on this day that Moses was circumcised in Egypt. His circumcision would have occurred in a very troubling time for Hebrew parents who saw the birth of a male child, considering that Pharaoh had ordered their deaths. Later, Moses would be hidden in a basket and placed upon the Nile, only to be discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter. Think of it: saved by the daughter of the man who was trying to kill him.
“Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children.’” (Exodus 2:5-6)
How did she immediately know that this child was Hebrew? It’s possible that she saw the child was circumcised and, if so, circumcision was the sign that identified him. Circumcision goes all the way back to Abraham who was commanded to be circumcised and to circumcise all those within his house.
“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” (Genesis 17:10-13)
Here we see that circumcision is regarded as a sign of the covenant which is, as we said, most likely why Moses was identified as a Hebrew. There are other commands in Scripture that the Almighty said were to serve as signs between God and Israel; Shabbat is one of these signs; tefillin or phylacteries is another. God instructed His people with unique commands designed to demonstrate that they are in covenant with Him and are His people.
So then, circumcision is a physical, tangible sign intended to identify the males of His people. But, identify them to whom? Who is supposed to see this? Considering the sensitive nature of circumcision and its location on the man’s body, it doesn’t seem to have been intended as a sign to the public. Obviously, this sign would have been intended as a sign between a man and his Creator. In other words, it was personal and to a large degree, private. Other signs of the covenant, like tefillin and Shabbat could be considered outward signs that said to everyone: “I’m keeping God’s commands.” The question is, though, if someone exhibits these physical markers, does that necessarily mean that they are in a true relationship with the Creator? To answer that, let’s look at what Paul has to say:
“For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” (Romans 2:25-29)
What Paul seems to be saying is that, even though you can find them in the Bible, your outward signs are pointless if you are not circumcised in your heart. Those who don’t have the physical outward trappings of righteousness, but yet who are circumcised of the heart, it is as if they bear the physical marker. Furthermore, Paul made it clear that Abraham, our spiritual father, was blessed while he was still uncircumcised, because he believed God. That’s why it was accounted unto him as righteousness – he was already circumcised in his heart. What Paul said regarding circumcision is not a New Testament concept, but one that originated with Moses. Long ago, he who told Israel that they must cease from being stiff-necked and must circumcise the foreskin of their hearts.
The point is, though God does instruct us to do things that have physical manifestations -and if He tells us to do something, there’s a good reason – we should do these things because it is in our heart to do them. In other words, we should obey Him because we love Him and because we believe Him. To do things for any other reason is just an exercise in religion. And so, let us be circumcised in our hearts – whether male or female, young or old. Let us all have a heart to follow our Father and do what He says to do, because we love Him.